Labor MK Shochat May Quit Knesset

MK Avraham Shochat (Labor) may soon retire from the Knesset, and will not compete for a place on Labor's next Knesset list, political sources said yesterday.

When questioned by Haaretz, Shochat declined to comment, saying merely that if and when he has anything to announce, he will do so.

The sources said that Shochat's expected retirement from political life is not dependent on the outcome of Labor's upcoming leadership race, though he is backing one of the contenders, Ehud Barak. "Even if Barak wins the primary, it appears that Shochat's decision will not change," said a source.

Shochat also considered resigning from the Knesset four years ago, but his colleagues persuaded him to stay. Prior to the 2003 elections, he successfully ran for a spot on Labor's Knesset slate, winning a Knesset seat. However, he failed in his bid to be chosen as one of the party's ministers in the current unity government.

Shochat was first elected to the Knesset in 1988. In 1992, he became finance minister under Yitzhak Rabin, a post he held until the Likud regained power in 1996. In 1999, he was again appointed finance minister, this time by Barak, and remained in the post until Barak's government fell in 2001.

When Barak announced his return to politics following a three-year "time out," Shochat was one of the first MKs to declare his support. Shochat has long been an ideological opponent of Histadrut leader MK Amir Peretz, one of the several other candidates for Labor Party leadership.

If Shochat does resign from the Knesset, he will be replaced by former MK Salah Tarif, Labor's Druze representative.